When the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced last month that it will stage 20 matches of the cash-rich Pepsi Indian Premier League (IPL) in the United Arab Emirates of which six games will be played at the iconic Sharjah Cricket Stadium, one man in this desert venue jumped in glory.
Mazhar Khan, the general manager of the Sharjah Cricket Stadium was overjoyed with happiness when the announcement came.
Speaking to Times Sport in an interview, on Sunday, Khan, the long-standing administrator of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) said with the IPL already underway in the UAE, the Sharjah stadium is back in the limelight.
"When they (BCCI) made that big announcement that six matches will be played in Sharjah, I was stunned for a minute because we never thought this will happen. I jumped in happiness. I cannot express how I felt when that announcement came," said Khan, who has been with the ECB for the last 39 years.
Built in the early 1980s, Sharjah stadium very quickly became a regular home for tournaments as the popularity of One-day cricket exploded following India's World Cup win in 1983.
Between 1984 and 2003 the ground hosted 198 ODIs and four Tests. That included the last-ball six by Javed Miandad against India in the Australasia Cup and the famous Sandstorm innings from batting legend Sachin Tendulkar in 1998 against Australia, it was all played here in Sharjah.
But when the match-fixing scandals emerged in the late 1990s, the stadium began to wane and to make things worse; the Indian government banned its national team from playing here. The stadium now serves as an offshore venue for Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The IPL, according to Khan has brought a huge relief for ECB as the fund received from the tournament can be utilised for further improving the stadium.
"We want to further enhance this stadium and it's a huge relief for us with IPL coming to UAE," he said.
With already two IPL games played at the venue that has staged the most number of ODIs in the history of cricket, Khan said the almost 80 per cent of tickets for the remaining matches are sold.
"The response from the crowd is so overwhelming that tickets are getting sold like hot cakes," Khan said.
"Most important, some of the people who are staying in Sharjah have come personally to tell me that these matches reminds them of the good old days. That certainly has motivated us. We have some great plans for the fans and this is just a beginning," Khan informed.
Khan pointed out that witnessing some of the world's elite tournaments in the UAE would undoubtedly inspire the country's younger generation to pick the game.
"There is so much of excitement in the air due to IPL and that will certainly boost the younger generation of cricketers in our country to take up the game more serious," Khan added.
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